philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Artificial intelligence: The dark matter of computer vision

weird-chairsThere is a range of efforts aimed at solving the shallowness and brittleness of deep learning, the main AI algorithm used in computer vision today. But sometimes, finding the right solution is predicated on asking the right questions and formulating the problem in the right way. And at present, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding what really needs to be done to fix computer vision algorithms.

In a paper published last month, scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of California, Los Angeles, argue that the key to making AI systems that can reason about visual data like humans is to address the “dark matter” of computer vision, the things that are not visible in pixels.

Titled, “Dark, Beyond Deep: A Paradigm Shift to Cognitive AI with Humanlike Common Sense,” the paper delves into five key elements that are missing from current approaches to computer vision. Adding these five components will enable us to move from “big data for small tasks” AI to “small data for big tasks,” the authors argue.

These dark components are functionality, intuitive physics, intent, causality, and utility (FPICU).

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13094274_1290941260934937_8417406838339440405_nReinforcement Learning has become the base approach in order to attain artificial general intelligence. The ICLR (International Conference on Learning Representations) is one of the major AI conferences that take place every year. With more than 600 interesting research papers, there are around 44 research papers in reinforcement learning that have been accepted in this year’s conference.

This article lists down the top 10 papers on reinforcement learning one must read from ICLR 2020.

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Stanford Student XR Assoc. – VR/AR/XR Industry Panel on Current Trends in VR/AR/XR

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Armed with disinfectant, South Korean robot tackle coronavirus spread

320x180Seoul - A self-driving robot equipped with cameras and an LED screen greets visitors at the lobby in the headquarters of South Korea's largest mobile operator, checking their temperature, dispensing hand sanitiser and disinfecting the floor.

"Please take part in social distancing," the white robot firmly but politely reminds three SK Telecom employees who stand chatting nearby.

Having largely managed to contain an epidemic that infected more than 11,000 and killed 269, South Korea is transitioning from intensive social distancing towards what the government calls "distancing in daily life".

The robot, developed jointly by SK Telecom and Omron Electronics Korea, an industrial automation solution provider, transmits data to its server in real time, powered by the telecom company's fifth-generation (5G) technology.

It sets off an alarm if anyone's temperature is over 37.5 Celsius (99.5 Fahrenheit), while using artificial intelligence (AI) to detect gatherings and advise people to disperse. Those not wearing a mask will be reminded to put one on.

"The robot helps minimise people-to-people contact and reduce time that's taken for temperature checks at the entrance, and the AI technology raises accuracy," said Ra Kyhong-hwan, head of data business cooperation at SK Telecom and one of the developers.

Armed with ultraviolet lamps and two disinfectant sprayers, the robot can disinfect 99% of 33 square metres (355 square feet) of surface area in 10 minutes, the company said.

The developers added a function to hide faces mirrored in the screen to protect people's privacy, Ra said.


A customer can place an order through a QR code, and the robot, called Delitower, would pick up food from the restaurant or a delivery rider and bring it straight to the customer's location.

"We've been testing delivery robots since last year and are seeking to adopt them at the offices, hotels and residential complexes as more people find robots to be useful amid the coronavirus outbreak and social distancing," an official at Woowa Brothers told Reuters.

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This is online learning’s moment. For universities, it’s a total mess

edtech-lifelong-learningFrom Blackboard to Panopto to Minerva, most universities already had hosting platforms in place where course materials could be uploaded; but for academics and students with little or no experience of pre-recorded or live-streamed lectures, the quick transition to online learning was painful.

A survey found that one in five people were willing to delay their undergraduate degrees if universities were not operating as normal due to the coronavirus pandemic. With 120,000 fewer students starting in September, UK universities could face a £760 million loss of income in tuition fees.

Online lectures generally go wrong when academics decide to record lessons using the same slides they had previously prepared for face-to-face teaching, says Kyungmee Lee, a lecturer in technology enhanced learning at Lancaster University. ...“Of course, it doesn't really work.”

The University of Cambridge’s decision to stay online could set a precedent for the shift from traditional lecture-based teaching to student-centred online learning, says Lee. “It's a totally different discussion now that we have to think about the entire year of teaching practice. We can just do so many different things.” Drawing from what has worked and what hasn’t during lockdown, lecturers and teachers will have more time on their hands to restructure their courses with the necessary support of instructional designers, programmers and illustrators.

On May 19, the University of Bolton offered a glimpse into the future of campus life: airport-style temperature scanners at entrances, bikes for loan, tables with plastic dividing screens, and compulsory face masks are some of the new measures that would make its campus “Covid secure”.

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UCU calls for government support as poll shows students may defer study and consider changing university

20 May 2020

Government must underwrite loss of income to safeguard the higher education sector and stop competition between universities for students

Universities face an uncertain future as over a fifth of prospective students (22%) could defer going to university, according to a new survey released today (Wednesday). Prospective students also said there was a 25% chance they would consider switching their university, which could lead to a summer of chaos as institutions compete to secure students. 


With touches of technical wizardry, MIT holds its first online Commencement

MIT-McRaven-01_3In an unprecedented online version of MIT’s annual Commencement exercises, necessitated by the departure of most people from the campus because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Institute added some innovative touches — including a surprise appearance from the International Space Station — to the unusual but festive occasion.


Another musical performance, featuring the voices of over 800 members of the MIT community, followed McRaven’s remarks. Called “Comusica” and conceived by professor of the practice Eran Egozy along with Professor Evan Ziporyn, who wrote the music, and Professor Isaac Chuang, who built the infrastructure and image-processing algorithms, the project involved recording each participant singing a single note. These were arranged into a mosaic to create a unique song and video “portrait” of the Class of 2020.


Nwanacho Nwana, president of the Class of 2020, spoke of regrets about the things he and his classmates missed experiencing during their last weeks of MIT. But, he added, “Even if we had those last few months together, we would all likely still leave MIT with numerous regrets of what could have been and what we could have done. This period has been a harsh reminder that time is not only limited, but the limits on that time are uncertain and we never really know when our time will be up.”


Following the online graduation ceremony, the names of all 3,512 degree recipients were scrolled online. Then, in a typically MIT show of technical prowess, a specially designed app was made available to all the graduates. This allowed each graduate to individually simulate through virtual reality the experience of walking across the Commencement stage, shaking hands with President Reif, and receiving their degree.

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This Tokyo Hospital is Livestreaming Surgeries in Virtual Reality

livestreaming-surgeries“Especially in the current situation, we believe that VR live streaming is very useful because you can share an immersive experience while avoiding human contact,” Naotaka Fujii, CEO of the VR company Hacosco that set up the system, wrote in a blog by the virtual reality camera manufacturer Insta360.

One drawback of the use of VR camera during surgeries is that students won’t get a hands-on perspective as they would if they were in the same surgical theatre with the rest of the surgeons. Another is that surgeons would also need to switch between various reference points for the visuals to be clear enough.

This doesn’t mean the virtual reality camera doesn’t provide a better view while livestreaming surgeries. It looks as if students were peering over the shoulders of a surgeon or watching from the glass window outside the surgical theatre.

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Microsoft Just Built a World-Class Supercomputer Exclusively for OpenAI

Last year, Microsoft announced a billion-dollar investment in OpenAI, an organization whose mission is to create artificial general intelligence and make it safe for humanity.

A year on, we have the first results of that partnership. At this year’s Microsoft Build 2020, a developer conference showcasing Microsoft’s latest and greatest, the company said they’d completed a supercomputer exclusively for OpenAI’s machine learning research. But this is no run-of-the-mill supercomputer. It’s a beast of a machine. The company said it has 285,000 CPU cores, 10,000 GPUs, and 400 gigabits per second of network connectivity for each GPU server.

To be clear, this isn’t AGI, and there’s no certain path to AGI yet. But algorithms beginning to modestly generalize within domains is progress.

“We’re testing a hypothesis that has been there since the beginning of the field: that a neural network close to the size of the human brain can be trained to be an AGI,” Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s co-founder, chairman, and CTO, told the Financial Times when Microsoft’s investment was first made public. “If the hypothesis is true, the upside for humanity will be remarkable.”

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Real Vs Virtual: Is COVID-19 Changing The Idea Of Who We Are?

Apple-Google_570_850Years ago, as bag-packers, my friend and I used to look at Japanese groups who would come out of their tourist buses, look in the direction of the guides’ stick and click pictures. They made no efforts to explore or walk around. Whether in the colosseum in Rome or in Auschwitz, it was the same. Within one week, they would cover the entire European civilization from the renaissance to the world war. The tourists had been everywhere but also perhaps nowhere. Today, we may be becoming like those tourists who experienced little, processed even lesser and believed they had seen all.

These students didn’t get my point that the virtual world is not anything close to real. It is the unprogrammed in the program that builds understanding of reality by engagement with other people; me telling the students that the surprises and the changes make an experience real, didn’t cut any ice.

This is also a predicament for many psychologists. I have seen Sunit (name changed) get over a bad marriage, a divorce and he is now fighting a painful custody case. The last few sessions he had were online. When I asked him if he felt any difference, after a moment’s silence he said, “I feel safer and anonymous while talking online. My communication, my business is so much online now that it seems more real now. It has become a way of life and I want to continue.” I nodded my head wondering how the new reality would challenge the principles of human behaviour I had learnt long ago at graduate school.

Soon psychologists may have more clients who prefer online to offline.

In the virtual world, we rarely look inward. Interactions with others are more performances and less based on exchanges that the human civilisation is based upon. It is the unpredictable whose presence makes me look inwards and ask certain questions that one can’t do in the virtual world. Knowing, sensing, intuiting has taken a backseat and the tactile, the visual no longer hold.

The physical world we leave behind did create meaning in our lives. It gave us poets, writers, scientists who drew their imagination and inspiration from the sensory world. It is something that the virtual world post-COVID-19 won’t be able to do. It will not create the meaning that Viktor Frankel said makes us truly human and gave us hope. I hope we discover an answer to that sooner than later.
(The author is a professor of Psychology at Amity University. Views expressed are personal.)

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How AI, virtual reality and augmented reality will improve social services: the future of health care in the 5G era

75c3e3e8-a3d8-11ea-8ea0-d7434be00753_972x_193721[PhilNote: this story could have been PR from any global telco, but because it is about Hong Kong it has a political undercurrent.]

“Physical boundaries will no longer be a concern. In the future, medical assessments of a Hong Kong client could be done by an expert in the US quite easily and quickly, and services could be easily delivered across borders,” Wong says.

He adds: “Medical professionals could conduct virtual home visits to examine the living conditions of the vulnerable and make assessments more comprehensively and with precision.”

Ultimately, Wong says, medical and social services will become more affordable and accessible, and will be delivered more quickly and from anywhere in the world.

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